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Historic Church In Wilkinsburg To Be Turned Into A Community Center

WILKINSBURG, Pa. (KDKA) -- A historic site in Wilkinsburg is receiving a makeover.

Mulberry Presbyterian Church has been deteriorating for more than 20 years. Scaffolding prevents the roof from collapsing and an old baptistery inside catches the rainwater that falls from the ceiling.

But now the Center for Civic Arts is trying to turn this once sacred place, with more than 2,000 members, into a creative one.

Mulberry Presbyterian Church
(Photo Credit: KDKA)

"The school was vibrant with over 500 students going to that school," said Jody Guy, founder of the Center for Civic Arts. "And there was an industrial-sized kitchen, so you could imagine the cooking that was going on."

Over the years, multiple congregations tried to make small repairs before folding in 2014. While some of the original features of the structure, which was built in 1905, have stood the test of time, others have been stolen, Guy said.

Some of the stained glass windows were been busted out, the copper organ was scrapped, and the wooden pews were hacked with saws.

"To see people on Easter morning carrying pew wood out the side door was just abominable, such a disrespect," Guy said.

Guy, who grew up around the corner and has family ties to the church, told KDKA that there was also an issue with squatters and vandals in the vacant building.

Those were some of the reasons that compelled her to pursue taking ownership of the church from the previous owner through conservatorship, which she won in court in 2019.

And with numerous partnerships, the church will now be turned into a community center for children and creatives to convene and consume art and culture.

"It could be exhibits, poetry reading, beautiful, tasty cuisine, craft beer tasting," Guy said.

Jendoco Construction is providing the much-needed elbow grease. Work on the roof will wrap up in a couple of weeks. Then it's onto the school, utilities and more.

"As that school wing is finished out, there's exterior window repairs, new windows to put in, restoration of some of the historic windows," said Chris Klehm, vice president of Jendoco Construction.

The school portion of the structure could be leased as a creative space as early as 2023. But the grand design could take a decade and $13 million to complete, a project that Guy hopes catches the eyes of investors.

Guy said she is eyeing long-term leases for the space at about $6 per square foot.

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